Book Review

ARC Book Review: Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2) by Emily A. Duncan

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 544 pages
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Expected Release Date: April 7th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless.

Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and Netgalley for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own.

TRUE TO ITS NATURE.

I should first acknowledge, will I read this third book? YES. While Ruthless Gods let me down a bit (and was way too long), there is still enough in here for me to need a conclusion to this wicked tale.

The desperation and darkness that leaked from these pages was astounding. This isn’t some cute fairytale y’all. This will hurt your soul most of the time and leave you questioning if a happy ending is ever possible. And honestly, I’M NOT SURE THAT IT IS. The scope of what someone is willing to do for love of country, and person pushed boundaries that left me reeling by the end. I was pulled in from the beginning, the middle definitely dragged on way too long, and then the ending gave me a interesting enough conclusion that I know I want more. This was a big case of book two syndrome.

This was reallllll creepy and realllll bloody. Every time Malachiasz showed his truly monstrous self I cringed because the mental picture is WEIRD Y’ALL. My boy Malachiasz was *almost* everything I needed him to be. I felt we were missing a chunk of his personality that didn’t come out until the very end. I wanted more heavily wicked banter and more intriguing moments with Nadya. I love this wicked cinnamon roll though and wonder what he’s planning next, because I know it’ll destroy my soul.

Serefin and Kacper. Saw it coming. LOVE IT. And that is about the only tiny moment of happiness Serefin saw this entire book (I told y’all, nothing good happens in Ruthless Gods). His continual battle with a god was intriguing, but here is my real gripe from the whole book; There were way too many visions and flashbacks. They often confused me because the segue into them was abrupt to the story.

My complaint from Wicked Saints was that Nadya wasn’t nefarious enough. She did up her ante in this installment!! YAY. I loved seeing her wield some dark magic and fight her demons. What I didn’t love was how wishy-washy she was about her relationship with Malachiasz. I get that it’s supposed to be this push and pull because he’s wicked, cool. BUT FOR REAL. I had a hard time getting on board with how often Nadya was flip-flopping and using pages to be a bit melodramatic about it all. I think some COMMUNICATION would solve most of these issues, it’s not even a matter of who’s wicked enough, it’s a matter of flat out talking to someone.

While I did enjoy the writing, some scene changes and chapter turnover was not in any sort of flow. It felt like small scenes were being jumped over and I was being tossed into the *next big thing* when I would have liked a bit more movement between scenes. I really loved the last 100 pages and am very curious about the last book. How the gods will play a role, what will happen between the countries, who is going to betray who last, SO MANY QUESTIONS. It’ll be a showstopper I’m sure.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little, in the second half of the book
  • Romance: a few kisses/make-outs, one almost scene that has a little heat
  • Violence: everything is bloody and gory y’all; murder, knives, magic, monsters, it’s all here
  • Trigger warnings: alcoholism, self-mutilation through cutting (for use of blood magic), self-mutilation through removing an eye

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Book Review

Book Review: The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) by Renée Ahdieh

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + romance + paranormal
Length: 448 pages
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

VAMPIRES?

I hesitantly picked this book up because I love Ahdieh’s books, but I heard the hypeness over the apparent vampires in this book [note: not a fan of vampire books, never really have been]. My cautionary read turned out a lot better than I thought. And I know I liked this much better than others BECAUSE there were barely any vampires in the entire book.

Ahdieh’s writing is always wonderful. I was easily invested in the story and enjoyed reading it. I love the setting, especially having traveled there, it really added to the atmosphere and vibe of old world New Orleans. The mystery and mythical combination is a tune I can love.

The romance was good, when the love triangle wasn’t in play. UGH. It didn’t need that at all to add to it (though now apparently it’ll play a big part in book two). Jury is still out and how the rest of this will unfold, but I was definitely shipping Celene and Bastien. I love the sultry banter and romantic moments they had. The ending left me all up in arms and I need a resolution.

I liked Celene for the most part. Her lack of communication skills were obvious and annoying. Celene could have had a better friendship with Pippa if she would trust her for one minute. The amount of inner dialogue she had about not telling anyone anything was running me ragged. An inability to communicate anything can really sour a character. Otherwise, I enjoyed her braveness and her courage against her situation.

Oh yes, those vampires? Well throughout the book I really couldn’t figure out who the mystery chapters were (in the vampires POV). I honestly didn’t know until they showed up on the page. That was satisfying to be on edge the entire time with who was attacking Celene and her cohorts. I definitely think they underworld of New Orleans will play a much bigger role in the second book since all of the reveals didn’t come out until the second half.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult paranormal, historical fiction romance
  • Language: a little strong
  • Romance: some kisses, an almost love scene with a little detail
  • Violence: gory murder description
  • Trigger Warning: attempted rape (never in full detail, discussed as part of Celene’s past with a few paragraphs dedicated to how he attacked her)

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Book Review

Book Review: Fame, Fate and the First Kiss (Love, Life, and the List #2) by Kasie West

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA contemporary romance
Length: 384 pages
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Fan favorite author Kasie West delivers an effervescent story about chasing your dreams and following your heart, perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Huntley Fitzpatrick.

Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

CUTE, BUT EH.

This was my first Kasie West book y’all. I feel I could have chosen better. This was a case of an audio book being available and I now realize my mistake. NOT enough to turn me off of picking up another West book, but to be more picky about it.

Audio notes: The narrator was fine, the only thing I didn’t love was that I felt she really played on the younger voice for the MC. Which in turn made me not love her as much. It made Lacy seem really young, rather than almost 18.

This was a cute young adult rom-com. Nothing flashy, nothing crazy, just a simple read. I did enjoy it. I was looking for more though. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something was missing.

I didn’t love Lacy as an MC. She did get better over time, it took a long time to get there though. Lacy was naive and purposely difficult while also trying to be everyone’s friend. It was an odd combo. I think Donovan in the picture helped her out. I did really love him (as I do usually prefer the book boyfriend). He was sweet, charming, and way more down to earth. I did love that this was a clean and young audience friendly romance. Some tender kisses was all this book needed to be pleasant.

Between each chapter were scenes from the movie Lacy was recording and I thought by the end I would understand why there were there…nope. Purely to add pages in my mind. I didn’t think they added anything other than us knowing what the movie was about, but it never pertained to the story. It would take me out of the real story every time it went to those scenes.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Trigger warnings: I felt like Lacy had an unhealthy relationship with food, a few sentences in there made me cringe about how she viewed food, this didn’t over take the book in anyway, just something I noticed

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Book Review

Book Review: The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 305 pages
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Expected Release Date: November 19th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

After being pronounced Queen of Faerie and then abruptly exiled by the Wicked King Cardan, Jude finds herself unmoored, the queen of nothing. She spends her time with Vivi and Oak, watches her fair share of reality television, and does the odd job or two, including trying to convince a cannibalistic faerie from hunting her own in the mortal world.

When her twin sister Taryn shows up asking of a favor, Jude jumps at the chance to return to the Faerie world, even if it means facing Cardan, who she loves despite his betrayal.

When a dark curse is unveiled, Jude must become the first mortal Queen of Faerie and uncover how to break the curse, or risk upsetting the balance of the whole Faerie world.

NEEDED TO BE LONGER. NEEDED MORE CARDAN.

How do you start a review for a book you’ve been waiting for all year? Especially when you feel a bit let down by it? I’m not sure myself so be forewarned, this review might be interesting.

What I missed most was my sweet baby Cardan being snarky as all get out. I LOVE that I got to see a side of him that has been forthcoming throughout the previous books. He’s been changed by love and it’s an amazing character arc. Cardan lost some of his personality though and I missed his sass. You can be sassy and still in love! WHERE WAS HIS PAGE TIME TOO? Ugh. Halfway through and I had only seen him twice. I needed way more of him.

I also have thoughts about his story line that I wish I could convey, but I am not ruining it for anybody. So if you’ve read it and want to discuss please find me on Instagram! I will discuss his transformation all day.

Speaking of way more, this book was 300 pages barely. It was the shortest book in the series and it was a finale. Odd doesn’t even begin to describe my thoughts when I brought this out of the package. Everything wrapped up so fast. The action did keep moving and there was a good flow. There were no deep connections to anything happening. I wanted to dive to another level and expand upon the world and scenes.

I did love seeing how love changed Jude too. Her thoughts and actions remained more like herself at least, but she also was way into Cardan. And I was way into them. Jude made me frustrated when she kept making obvious mistakes that I knew were only leading to the next plot move.

Overall series thoughts pretty much maintain themselves for me. I’ve never been a fanatic for these books, but they’ve been a good read. A solid YA fantasy that has enemies to lovers (the ultimate trope) and fae (the ultimate character).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a few kisses, a love scene with minimal detail
  • Violence: sword fights, poison, arrows, animal attacks, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + romance
Length: 480 pages
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

CLOSED THE BOOK WITH TEARS IN MY EYES.

Y’all. When I first read the synopsis I thought it was a bit curious to combine Greek mythology with World War 1. I have heard good things about this book and decided to give it a shot, IT WAS AMAZING. SERIOUSLY.

The writing was absolutely beautiful. This had some insta-love that we all know I’m weary of. This is one of those times when it worked out flawlessly. The writing really captured my soul and it had me cheering on both of these couples through their trials.

Hazel and James were my precious broken souls. Oh how I love them. I was most involved in their story and was wrapped up in the nuances of the few chance meetings they got over the months while James was in the trenches of France. Lovely War showed a lot about the human condition. Struggling with having to kill others, PTSD, explosions, loss of friends and family. I felt the atrocities of war brought to an awful light.

Aubrey and Coletter were a wonderful relationship to watch flourish too. As an inter-racial couple in this time period the amount of awful things they had to deal with just to be together makes my stomach turn. They both had the hope and fight to be with one another and I begged for them to get a happy ending.

The narration of the story by the gods (mostly Aphrodite) was definitely unique. Thought it was a bit odd at first, but the deeper I got into the story, the more it all made sense. Bringing in Ares, Apollo and Hades brought new point of views. By the end their was an even bigger love story between Aphrodite and Hephaestus. I thought this played out beautifully and connected all the dots in the end.

One of my favorite tidbits was that it’s mostly set in World War 1. I’m always looking for different historical fiction books set in time periods I don’t normally read about.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: a few words
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: war, physical, guns, see trigger warnings for more
  • Trigger warnings: racism, hate crime, PTSD, sexual assault (unwanted grab and kissing), descriptions of the trenches and battle scenes

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Book Review

Book Review: DEV1AT3 (Lifelike #2) by Jay Kristoff

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult science fiction
Length: 419 pages
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Expected Release Date: June 25th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Lemon Fresh has seen better days.

After the climactic battle in Babel, she finds herself separated from Ezekiel and Cricket in the wastelands. Lemon’s abilities to manipulate electricity mark her as a deviate, and deadly corporate operatives are hunting her to use as a weapon in the war between BioMaas Incorporated and Daedelus Technologies. Instead, Lemon finds herself falling in with a group of fellow deviates—a band of teenagers with astonishing abilities, led by an enigmatic figure known as the Major, who may hold the secrets to Lemon’s past.

Meanwhile, Cricket finds himself in possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a head-on collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with his beloved Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world. 

I LOVE LEMON FRESH.

And I love that this book focused more on her.

This book started out with a nice little refresher of who was who and what happened (which I appreciate because lets face it, when it takes awhile to get to the second book some facts slip my mind).

So many twists yet again. I couldn’t keep up and was on my toes waiting for the next moment when I would stare at my page saying whaaaaat, nooooooo. I was kept guessing as to who some characters were and where others were located. I love the mystery of it all and it really helps me want to continue reading and flipping pages.

Lemon Fresh got a lot of the spotlight this time and she’s seriously, the best. I love her spunky personality and her loyalty to her friends. We got to see her struggles and her triumphs as she navigated meeting others like her. The dash of romance thrown in for her was sweet and not overdone. I totally ship them.

Ezekiel might destroy me by the end of this series. Frankly, this may be the case for any of our main four (Lemon, Ezekiel, Cricket and Eve). There is heartbreak and disaster literally around every corner and I DON’T KNOW IF I’LL GET A HAPPY ENDING. Going in blind to the last book may hurt, but I’m also stoked for it. The reveals and action can only go up from here.

The pacing is on point and the way information is rolled out never feels like an info dump or not quite enough to go off of. We’re given direction as needed and I love the world-building around a defunct society. It’s got a level of creep, some radicals, and those just trying to make it through the day. I’ve been real hesitant to read any dystopian as of late, but this one is definitely a hit.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult sci-fi / dystopia
  • Language: very little light language (some cases of using funk as a bad word)
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: robots fighting, fire, magic, physical, swords, explosions, guns

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Book Review

Book Review: Onyx & Ivory (Rime Chronicles #1) by Mindee Arnett

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 512 pages
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.

Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.

FELT VERY TYPICAL YA FANTASY.

I haven’t had a chance to get to this review for a few days, and now I’m sitting here trying to think about everything that happened and I can barely remember. Uh oh.

This was a very typical young adult fantasy novel. Mostly unremarkable, but you still enjoy it. You just don’t LOVE it. That about sums up all of my feelings for this.

Things started off a bit slow and confusing. We dove head first into the story and I had a hard time adjusting to the magic system, world, politics, and relationships of everyone. What I was feeling was the second chance love story between Kate and Corwin. Was a bit rocky, and full of Corwin trying to show Kate how much she means to him. Though he made a mistake I wasn’t totally comfortable with *shrugs;* wasn’t a full deal breaker at least. They had some good banter, and a few touching moments with a solid ending. I’ll take it!

It took me awhile to figure out what the plot was. I didn’t know who was bad, what we were trying to stop, and where the main focus lied. I’m thankful that this all worked itself out. As I finished it, I definitely understood what was going on and think that this will make the second book infinitely better. There were some odd political discussions that seemed out of place. And also, the weird battle/trial thing between his brother for the Kingship? What is that?! This was random too and I know it still has to end in the second book, but I need more info. Because WHY.

I did finish this 500+ page saga, which means I didn’t hate it. It was just stagnant. I’ll keep an eye out for the second book and we’ll see if I get around to reading it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and almost love scene (a little descriptive)
  • Violence: battle, animal attacks, swords, guns, magic; not intensely gory/bloody

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